How to avoid the Heathrow Hotel Hoppa fee by travelling on local buses for free

(EDIT:  I have changed this article during the day due to reader feedback, which included a very helpful link to a brand new bus map.  As this new map includes the location of the major hotels have removed the text on how to get to each property.  Thanks to everyone for their feedback.)

Last week I ran a review of the Hilton Garden Inn hotel at Hatton Cross, on the very edge of Heathrow.  My main selling point in recommending this hotel is that it sits next to Hatton Cross tube station so you can avoid the Heathrow Hoppa shuttle buses used by other off-airport hotels.

Following feedback in the comments to that article, I thought I would update this advice on how to use the free local bus services at Heathrow to avoid paying for the Hoppa.

To be honest, I have always been happy with the idea of not letting the Heathrow Airport hotels run their own shuttle buses.  We all know from experience at other airports how chaotic arrival terminals can be with hotel and car hire shuttle buses all jostling for space.

At Heathrow, hotel shuttle buses are banned.  Instead, National Express has a monopoly contract to operate the ‘Hotel Hoppa’ shuttle service to 29 different hotels around the airport.

Like any monopoly, National Express has not been shy in exploiting it.  It currently costs a ludicrous £5 per person one-way or £9 return if you pay cash to the driver.  Children under 15 travel for free.

Hotel Hoppa

To add insult to financial injury, most Hoppa routes involve a circuitous drive around the area.  Most will visit 3-4 other properties before depositing you at yours.  If you are lucky and are the first to be dropped off, all that means is that you will face a longer trip in the morning!

There are ways of avoiding this fee.

The obvious way, of course, is to stay at a hotel in the airport.  That means the Sofitel in Terminal 5, the Hilton in Terminal 4, the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross or – from late May – the new Premier Inn at Terminal 4.

Plan B is NOT to try to take a taxi.  Whilst technically there is a way they can arrange to ‘push in’ to the queue on their return, you can imagine the response you will get when you ask a driver to give up a £75+ trip to Central London in return for a quick run to your hotel.  Heathrow is outside of the zone whereby black cabs cannot refuse a fare.

Instead, Plan B is to take a free standard London bus.

Within the airport perimeter, which includes all of the hotels on Bath Road, public transport is free.  Not a lot of people know this.  If you make your way to the Heathrow bus station you can hop on a standard red bus which will drop you near your hotel – albeit not outside the front door, which the Hoppa would do.

This map (PDF file) is a schematic of the free bus routes around the airport.  This is the new April 2017 version and reflects recent changes to the bus network around the airport.

All of the major Heathrow hotels are featured on that map.  The one exception is the Doubletree which is quite a long way outside the airport –  you will need to pay for a bus ticket if you are heading here as it is outside the free travel zone.  A standard bus ticket at £1.50 is still 70% cheaper than a Heathrow Hoppa ticket, although remember that cash is not accepted on the London bus network so you would need an Oyster card or contactless credit or debit card.

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  1. N9 is another free option from Bath Wall to central bus station and T5 until about 7am.